With six days down in the lead up to Old Dominion’s opener against Norfolk State in the new Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, we have learned a lot about the 2019 version of the Monarchs, but more is yet to come.
Old Dominion has an open QB competition after Blake LaRussa left to attend seminary school. There are three front runners, former ODU starter and redshirt sophomore Steven Williams, and JUCO transfers Stone Smartt and Messiah deWeaver.
Williams gives the Monarchs experience, as he started the first four games of the 2018 season after starting seven and playing in ten as a freshman in 2017. Williams has 2,035 passing yards with 13 interceptions and eight touchdowns in his ODU career.
Stone Smartt comes from Riverside City Junior College in California and led California JUCO QBs in passing efficiency and was named First-Team JUCO All-American. Smartt passed for 2,754 yards, 31 touchdowns and three interceptions last season at Riverside City.
Messiah deWeaver is a JUCO transfer from East Mississippi CC and was the No.3 rated JUCO pro-style QB by 247sports. deWeaver led the EMCC Lions to a NJCAA National Championship and a 12-0 season last year. deWeaver is majoring in leadership, an attribute that all good QBs must possess.
“I like the way all three are progressing right now, there is really three of them in the hunt for the starting job right now,” head coach Bobby Wilder said. “Anyone out of those three could win the job at this point and what we have learned about them thus far is that all three of them are athletic, all three of them will be able to run the ball so we will be able to play some 12-man football with the quarterback as a thrower or a runner and that’s a bonus right now, I like the way all three are progressing, we are only five (practices) in and we have 23 to go.”
There are quite a few new guys on the ODU roster, including the two JUCO QBs along with a few key transfers. Eric Kumah is a grad transfer from Virginia Tech. Kumah has been running but not a full participant in practice yet.
Also coming to ODU from VT is Chris Cunningham, the former Hokie tight end caught two touchdowns for VT last season, including a 13-yard score in the Monarchs upset of the then 13th ranked Hokies.
Calvin Brewton is another grad transfer from the ACC, coming from Florida State where he played defensive back for the Noles, playing mostly on special teams. Brewton gives the Monarchs depth in the backfield, and has already shown flashes over the first few days of camp with some key pass breakups, and an interception.
Tank Scott comes to ODU from Hampton after attending Varina High and Highland Springs High where the Springers are currently back-to-back-to-back-to-back defending VHSL state champions. Scott will play safety for the Monarchs and has been active in camp, picking off redshirt freshman QB Jonah Fitzgerald on the first day of camp.
True freshman Khadere Kounta is getting time at left tackle while Isaac Weaver moves to center. Kounta has taken snaps at LT, and looks solid on the offensive line while junior Isaac Weaver is making a move, for right now, to center.
“I’ve been taking a good bit of reps at center during fall camp,” Weaver said. “It’s been a lot of fun, it’s obviously something new for me, playing LT most of my career here and a little bit of guard in the spring as well. I think it’s good for the whole team, I figure if I’m able to play as many positions as possible it just helps the coaches and gives them more flexibility.”
“It (LT) feels good, each and every day I’m to do better to make improvements and focus on little details so I can help better the team,” Kounta exclaimed.
“He’s really picked things up well,” Wilder commented about Kounta. “Now, the advantage is, he joined us in January so he was here for winter workouts, spring ball, and he has been here in summer, he is a hard worker, he listens and works at it. At 6ft 5in he is very athletic, it’s going to be a process for him, we are going to need to help him out at times but we feel really good about his progression through five practices.”
Freshman wide receiver Javon Harvey, a hometown product out of Lake Taylor High School (Norfolk, VA) has looked solid during drills so far this fall. It’s unknown how much playing time Harvey will get, but his hands and route running have looked solid thus far.
“He (Harvey) is exactly what I hoped he would be,” Wilder said about Harvey. “He is fast, he’s athletic, he is really good to the ball, meaning his hands (reach) to the ball whether it’s an open throw or a contested throw. He banged his shoulder up a little bit, that set him back but I feel confident with Javon Harvey that he will see playing time this year.
Finally, another QB not in the running to be the starter is Hampton Roads product Noah Spencer, a walk-on from Green Run (Chesapeake, VA). Spencer has shown flashes throughout the first six days of practice on certain throws.
“What I’m most impressed with Noah is that he is a tremendous athlete, he can run the ball, he moves well in the pocket, he throws a nice deep ball, because he just got here it will be a progression, he will be somebody we redshirt but if he progresses based on his ability he has a bright future” Wilder said in regards to Spencer.
These, and more story lines will be watched closely leading up to the opening of the new Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium on August 31st against Norfolk State. Practice for the Monarchs resumes Friday, and the first scrimmage is set for Monday, August 12th.